The Tradcat Emotional Rollercoaster

This is a piece I didn’t really want to write.  Mainly because Gail and I have a soft spot in our hearts for Tradcats (also known as Radtrads).  You know, traditionalist Catholics who are bewildered by the changes wrought by Vatican II and Pope Francis.  

<—The graphic for this piece was borrowed from Orthodox Reflections which they call the “Roman Catholic Curve of Cope”.  I view it as the emotional roller-coaster that these fine people are riding on and can’t get off.  Mainly because the “Acceptance” stage requires conversion to Orthodoxy.  (FYI: Jay Dyer used to be a  Catholic.)

And then there’s the fact that we’ve openly proclaimed ourselves as being in favor of the “ecumenism of the trenches”.  In other words, we see Christians from the other faith traditions as being kindred spirits.  Especially if they’re conservative.  None of this “punching to the Right” stuff for us (if you know what I mean). 

I realize I’m going to get some grief for our stand but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the times we live in are very dark.  Our society has gone way past the point being post-Christian to being anti-Christian.  So yes, I will make common cause with Evangelicals, Catholics, Monophysites, Mormons, what-have-you.  Even sensible secularists.  It would be insane not to. 

Personally, I am grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for many kindnesses they bestowed upon me, both large and small.  Things like the hospital me and my sons were born in.  And for the fine schools they attended.  The head start they got because of that was well worth the sacrifices their mother and I made.  

In fact, I’d do it all over again.  In addition, I am friendly with more than a few Catholic priests and have an inordinate level of respect for some of the Tradcats I follow on YouTube.  

That said, I do feel the need to talk about certain Catholic apologists.  Which brings me back to my discomfort.  Why?  Because these apologists are good —darn good.  Though I don’t personally know any of these men, I like them as people and I respect the heck out of them.  They know their stuff, and as (Western) Christian apologists go, they are second to none.  I really appreciate how they easily take down the tendentious Protestant, secular and materialist myths that dominate Western culture and do so with confidence and clarity.

My discomfort arises from the fact that almost all of these men are now training their rhetorical guns of the Orthodox Church.  And I think I know why, as I shall explain below. 

But first, a little bit more background on the Tradcat phenomenon, by which I mean men like Michael Voris, Brian Holdsworth, Trent Horn, Kennedy Hall, and the capo di tutti capi, Dr Taylor Marshall. 

These men are all great apologists for Catholicism, and historical Christianity in general, as well.  Holdsworth for example, did an excellent apologia for the Resurrection, which you can see below.  Truth be told, barely a day goes by in which I don’t click on one of their YouTubes; in doing so, I learn a lot. 

Presently, I’m in the process of critiquing a two hour documentary on the supposed failures of Eastern Orthodoxy (put out from a Protestant perspective) and I rely on some of their documentaries for scholarly support.

The inclusion of Kennedy Hall in this list unwittingly makes my point.  This is because he’s an unapologetic member of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which is considered by the Vatican to be a schismatic sect.  Indeed, some of the podcasters listed above (Holdsworth, Voris and Marshall) agree with this assessment.  As to Vatican II, Michael Voris considers it to be a valid council.  Others are not so sure.  Still others, particularly the sedevacantists,* condemn it outright.   So you begin to see the problem, taken all together, these inconsistencies are threatening to tear apart the Tradcat resistance, hence the “emotional roller-coaster” in the title. 

At the end of his otherwise excellent book, Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within, Marshall is reduced to performing mental gymnastics in order to square the circle of the Pope’s Petrine ministry/infallibility –the supposed guarantor of orthodoxy– with the concomitant loss of Catholic orthodoxy.  Others believe that because the Pope cannot err, then Vatican II must be a valid council since a Pope called it.  Do you begin to see the problem?

Their production values are elegant.  I for one, am envious.  Their arguments are often persuasive.  And many of them are not dismissive of Orthodoxy.  Far from it.  I see a grudging admiration for Orthodoxy, both verbal and visual.  In almost all of these podcasts, you can see a fair bit of Byzantine iconography in the background.  Marshall for instance, often uses Orthodox verbiage, such as Theotokos and Pascha when speaking about the Blessed Virgin and Easter.  

Which brings me back to today’s topic and my intuition that the Tradcats fear that Vatican II gave away the store.  So what’s a sincere Catholic to do?   Protestantism for its part, is self-refuting.  The Oriental Orthodox do not accept Chalcedon and so, we’re all that’s left.  Historically and theologically speaking, we’re the only game in town.  

The inherent contradictions of a papal Church on the one hand (with a lot of post-Great Schism accretions) vs a conciliar Church on the other, inevitably leads to the conclusion that Catholicism qua Catholicism is no longer able to uphold the Truth.  And for this reason alone, I sense a circling of the wagons, primarily around the figure of the  Pope, who in their view is, has been, and always will be the Vicar of Christ on earth.  And thus, when speaking ex cathedra, is infallible.  (Another accretion, by the way.)  

It goes further than this in fact, as one of the hallmarks of the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy is that “no man can judge the Pope”.  Hence, the present contradictory positions propounded by many of these apologists.  In my opinion, they are trying to square a circle.

This problem has actually been compounded by the fact that three weeks ago, in meeting with representatives from the Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholics changed their position on the Papacy, essentially agreeing with the Orthodox; that is, that the Orthodox understanding of first millennium ecclesiology is the correct one.  Given their devotion to the Papacy, this admission has not been met with joy by these quarters.   For one thing, it negates the last one thousand years of Catholic history, when the West adopted all sorts of doctrinal innovations, accretions which have only deepened the East-West divide in the interim.

But what about Orthodoxy?  Despite all our faults, we have an unassailable doctrinal and liturgical consistency, one that spans two millennia.  This despite the fact that we have no Pope.  We also don’t have an effective evangelistic effort.  Our chanceries here in the States are barely scraping by.  Administrative unity?  Fuhgeddaboutit.  Most parishes are dependent upon food festivals and bake sales to make ends meet.  We have a ludicrous multiplicity of bishops in some cities.  None of this is ideal, indeed, it is scandalous, especially when we consider the fact that entire regions of America have no bishop at all. 

And yet, Orthodoxy, in spite of most of us, appears to be increasing in numbers.  

The glue which holds together all of the men on this continuum is the Papacy.  All Catholics, even Cafeteria Catholics cling to the this institution.  The conservatives continue to do so even though the present Pope is failing them in so many ways.

In other words, it’s the papal institution which serves as a type of anti-anxiety drug, steadying the nerves of traditionalists as they survey the wreckage all around them.  “It will be better”, they say to themselves, “after all, St Peter was given the Keys to the Kingdom by Christ Himself, who also promised that the Church would stand for all eternity”.  (We’ll leave the errors in their understanding of that doctrine aside for the time being.)

So, am I being an Ortho-triumphalist?  Far from it.  Besides catologuing the deficits listed above, the Orthodox Church at present is undergoing a schism, one which was set in motion a century ago by Patriarch Meletius IV Metaxakis of sorrowful memory.   What that notorious Freemason started, the present Ecumenical Patriarch is intent on completing.  Many seekers are justifiably appalled.  (As are many of us.)

Then there’s the fact that local Orthodox parishes in America view each other with lingering suspicion.  In fact, attempts to come together in some type of organic unity in this country have failed miserably.  We can blame the foreign patriarchates for this (and we should), but we laymen need to assign some blame to ourselves as well.  To be blunt, very few of us manifest Christ’s commandment to “love one another, as I have loved you”.  

And this was during the good times.  Today, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate openly allies itself with the globalist elites and has aided and abetted a horrific fratricidal war in the Ukraine, things are worse.  Then there’s the fact that Bartholomew’s exarch in America has signaled his acceptance of the Fordhamite agenda in its entirety.  Unless this latter policy is reversed –and soon–this slow-motion schism will only accelerate. 

As for those of us who are not in the GOA, we are not immune from these modernist currents.  Some of us can feel the undertow of modernism trying to engulf us:  the Orthodox Church in America (the jurisdiction to which I belong), recently put out on its webpage its official position on ecumenism and interreligious relations which, to put it charitably, raised more questions than it answered.  

All of the above is true.  Concerns exist and we Orthodox would be foolish to bury our heads in the sand.  That said, we Orthodox have a two thousand year old track record of, well — dare I say it?–maintaining Orthodoxy.  Even though we have no central, Vatican-like authority, our doctrines have remained the same, not only as far as time is concerned, but across geographical expanses as well.  An Orthodox Christian from America can go to an Orthodox church in Kenya and receive the Eucharist.  A Serb doesn’t have to wonder whether the Romanians are entertaining new ideas about the Trinity.  All can receive Holy Unction in Georgia, and so on. 

In other words, we are united where it matters:  at the Chalice.  And this unity is manifested liturgically, doctrinally, and (despite the fantasies of the Phanarsiotes), ecclesiastically.  When all is said done, that’s more important–infinitely more important.

Getting back to our traditionalist Catholic brethren (and yes, I do consider them to be brethren), I openly concede our deficits.  On the other hand, our liturgical rigor, theology, hymnody and iconography have remained constant across time, space and nationality.  Nor do we have to reinvent the wheel where conciliarity is concerned.  We’ve always been conciliar.  That being said, I begin to understand the devotion of the traditionalists to papalism, especially given the chaos they have had to endure since Vatican II. 

As to the defects in their understanding of the Petrine ministry upon which the post-Schism Papacy is built, I plan to discuss them in the near future in a special podcast.   

In the meantime, let’s be charitable but firm in our faith.   


*Sedevacantism is the belief that the Seat (sede) of Peter is vacant (vacante).  In the opinion of many of these sects, there has been no valid Pope since 1958, when Pius XII died and was replaced by Angelo Cardinal Roncalli (the Patriarch of Venice) under suspicious circumstances.  (See below.):

According to Paul L Williams, a former FBI consultant, Cardinal Giuseppe Siri was legitimately elected on the third ballot and was to take the regnal name Gregory XVII:

In 1954 Count Della Torre, editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, warned [Pope] Pius XII of [Cardinal Angelo] Roncalli’s Communist sympathies. Other members of the “Black Nobility” expressed similar concerns.[5]

Nor did Roncalli [later known as “Pope John XXIII”] escape the attention of the FBI and CIA. The agencies began to accumulate thick files on him and the questionable activities of other “progressives” within the Vatican, including Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Paul VI).

Pius XII had appointed Cardinal Giuseppe Siri as his desired successor.[7] Siri was rabidly anti-Communist, an intransigent traditionalist in matters of church doctrine, and a skilled bureaucrat….

In 1958 [on October 26], when the cardinals were locked away in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, mysterious events began to unfold. On the third ballot, Siri, according to FBI sources, obtained the necessary votes and was elected as Pope Gregory XVII.[8] White smoke poured from the chimney of the chapel to inform the faithful that a new pope had been chosen. The news was announced with joy at 6 P.M. on Vatican radio. The announcer said, “The smoke is white. . . . There is absolutely no doubt. A pope has been elected.”[9] …

But the new pope failed to appear. Questions began to arise whether the smoke was white or gray. To quell such doubts, Monsignor Santaro, secretary of the Conclave of Cardinals, informed the press that the smoke, indeed, had been white and that a new pope had been elected. The waiting continued. By evening Vatican radio announced that the results remained uncertain. On October 27, 1958, the Houston Post headlined: “Cardinals Fail to elect pope in 4 Ballots: Mix-Up in Smoke Signals Cause False Reports.” [10]

But the reports had been valid. On the fourth ballot, according to FBI sources, Siri again obtained the necessary votes and was elected supreme pontiff. But the French cardinals annulled the results, claiming that the election would cause widespread riots and the assassination of several prominent bishops behind the Iron Curtain.[11]

The cardinals opted to elect Cardinal Frederico Tedischini as a “transitional pope,” but Tedischini was too ill to accept the position.

Finally, on the third day of balloting, Roncalli received the necessary support to become Pope John XXIII….

(Paul L. Williams, The Vatican Exposed [Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003], pp. 90-92)

The footnote numbers included in Williams’ text point to the following references (adapted from p. 243 of the same book):

[5] Department of State confidential biography, “John XXIII,” issue date: no date, declassified: February 15, 1974; see also Avro Manhattan, Murder in the Vatican, p. 31.

[7] John Cooney, The American Pope, p. 259.

[8] Department of State secret dispatch, “John XXIII,” issue date: November 20, 1958, declassified: November 11, 1974.

[9] The announcer’s words appeared in the London Tablet, November 1, 1958, p. 387.

[10] Houston Post, October 27, 1958, pp. 1 and 7.

[11] Department of State secret file, “Cardinal Siri,” issue date: April 10, 1961, declassified: February 28, 1994.


Here is Brian Holdsworth’s defense of the Resurrection: 








  1. Antiochene Son says

    “In fact, attempts to come together in some type of organic unity in this country have failed miserably.”

    True, and the failure is as organic as the solution. In my city, the Russian parishes never get together with even the Antiochians (or even one another!) despite good relations between our churches, and this was true before all the current troubles.

    Talking to their parishioners, it is almost a mark of pride that they don’t interact with others. It’s almost cultish and it’s sad.

    • I’m in the OCA but I’ve attended GOARCH, ROCOR, and Antiochian Liturgies in the past. I know other members of my parish who do the same. Just posting to shed some hope.

    • My lived experience over the past several decades has taught me that inter-jurisdictional Orthodox interactions are somewhat dependent on what part of the country you’re in…. as a kid in PA, yes it’s true that the Ukrainian Church on the corner would rarely interact with the Greek Church across the street and the Carpatho-Russian parish would often keep to themselves with their Latin-style “Monsignor” titles (so weird!), and the ROCOR parish was still in Slavonic 🙂 – and the Metropolia/OCA parish would try to encourage people to maybe at some point cautiously think about getting together and growing past their ethnic differences….. sigh

      In the big U.S. coastal cities I think it’s similar — I imagine in New York City, for example, it’s probably rare for Greeks to go to the ROCOR cathedral or to the OCA cathedral, and vice versa? Hopefully garden-variety American converts find a place for themselves in all of this mess!

      But have to say here in the South, very few laity seem to care about the jurisdictional differences — it’s refreshing. Was recently at the OCA DoS summer camp in North Texas in July — more than 300 kids were there, I think from every jurisdiction imaginable (OCA, ROCOR, Greeks, Antiochians, Romanians, maybe Serbs too?). It was great!

      Really made me reflect that this is/was the vision of St Tikhon, of Metropolitan Leonty, of Fr Alexander Schmemann, of Vladika Dmitri of blessed memory, etc – of all of those who are and have been our American Orthodox Christian visionaries!

      Yes, the interactions can be rough around the edges at times, and people may cringe at ethnic practices that are not their own, but in the end, who cares? Isn’t the whole point to grow close to Christ and – more importantly – to protect and grow the Church in our American land, most importantly, for our children?

      God knows that the secular American cultural morass that our children are inheriting is satanic and disastrous — I think God will judge us very severely for not giving our Orthodox Christian children safe havens in a solid Church community – one that has a unified voice in this American land – where they can flee to Him and to His Mother, in their loving arms.

      • I think you’re on to something here. – This problem with unity will be solved by our kids. Because they are not being segregated, they will not have these walls we live with today in the future.

    • Most GOA aren’t even 100 percent sure other Orthodox exist. Ask some of my cousins and they will tell you something like, “the Serbians and Ethiopians are Orthodox… I think, right? “

  2. Dear George,
    I am a revert to Catholicism and a “Tradcat” I might add, after 30 some years as an Evangelical and 10 in the Greek Orthodox Church. I follow your blog because I have a soft spot for my Orthodox brethren as you do for us, and I find your posts very informative and helpful. I attend an SSPX chapel, and I must correct your statement that the Vatican considers them schismatic. This is not true; they are in what is called an irregular canonical position but their Masses and sacraments are considered valid and one satisfies one’s Sunday obligation when attending one of their chapels. The Society and its attendees were never excommunicated by the Church, only Archbishop Lefevbre and the Bishops he ordained. The archbishop did not live long enough to have his excommunication lifted, but it was for the 4 bishops by Pope Benedict.

    Taylor Marshall speaks out of ignorance in my opinion, but Michael Voris speaks out of pure malice.
    His and Christine Niles’ attacks on the Society are relentless, and they should by no means be considered traditional Catholics. They are simply grifters (IMO) seeking to make a buck off of the crisis in the Church. As for Holdsworth, I don’t even know who he is. The links below tell the story.

    The Catholic Church is being attacked just as is the Orthodox. Just look at the crisis in the Greek church, especially under Elpi in America. The Ukrainian war is really an attack on Russian Orthodoxy, and Patriarch Bart is a disaster, just as is Bergolio who is undoubtedly an antipope IMO.
    Those two are raging globalists, just shills for the WEF in an attempt to create a one world government and a one world church. Bergoglio means to completely quash the traditional Latin liturgy, and just watch, next he’ll go after the Byzantine rites of the Eastern Catholics. Then the next front for attack will be the Orthodox, as we share with few exceptions, the same faith which Satan seeks to destroy. As you said, Protestantism is self-refuting.

    If you want to know what’s really happening in the Catholic Church since the disaster called Vatican II, pay attention to Archbishop Vigano. You might also want to check out the work of Dr. Edmund Mazza at and the interviews of Art Bell and Bernard Jantzen with Fr. Malachi Martin (also attacked for exposing the truth about the apostasy taking place in the Church from the top down) on Youtube. Also on Youtube is the work of Anthony Stine at Return to Tradition. These are all much more reliable sources than the likes of Michael Voris et al.

    My prayers are with you and all the Orthodox. Who knows, someday we may find ourselves together in the Remnant of the true faith, after these servants of Satan have done their best to destroy it.

    • Elizanna, thank you for your gracious words and correction regarding the SSPX. I’m still unsure how the SSPX cannot be schismatic if its founder (LeFebve) was excommunicated by the Pope.

      Also, would you be so kind as to forward any info on the other Sede bodies?

      As for Arb Vigano, Gail and I are HUGE fans. Of course, when he stated last year that Moscow was “the Third Rome”, that raises certain uncomfortable questions for a Catholic, does it not? (BTW, we also believe in the Moscow=Third Rome theory.)

      • George, FR. Wilson’s explanation of why the SSPX is not in schism is good if you accept that “Francis” is a legitimate pope. I and many others do not, so that whatever he declares is not valid to begin with. Prior to his disastrous “papacy,” the church never declared the Society to be in schism. Only the bishops were excommunicated and that was, as I stated above, lifted by Pope Benedict. The priests and the laity who attend were never declared excommunicated. The blogspot LesFemmes that I cited above explains it all.

        Also, your request for info on the OTHER sede bodies implies that you think the SSPX is one. They are definitely not sedevacantists as they recognize Jorge Bergoglio as the legitimate Pope which many of us Trads do not. That is a major weakness IMHO. However, they are the only place I can go for the legitimate Latin Rite as the Novus Ordo (new mass) was written by Freemasons (Bugnini) and Protestants in order to water down the Mass and make it acceptable to Protestants. My only other alternative is a Ukrainian Catholic church where all one hears these days is “Putin is evil, Pat. Kyrill is a KGB agent, and GLORY to UKRAINE! It’s intolerable.

        In answer to your request, I am not overly familiar with the various sede groups, as I am not one myself, although I can sympathize with their position. My belief is that Bergoglio was never validly elected as Pope Benedict never validly resigned and thus remained Pope until his death. We are now in a period of InterRegnum in the Church which is not without precedent in church history. For in depth info see Dr. Mazza’s website (cited above) along with the following link which is a great resource on the entire debacle.

        A source for sede info is
        You may find what you are looking there.

        I must say that I find the anti-Catholic sentiments by so many orthodox to be a source of great sorrow to me, as we share so much in history and in faith. It is, for me, like a family greatly estranged. Most Catholics I’ve met have no such feelings towards the Orthodox. Most are really uninformed about the Orthodox faith and express interest in learning what it is all about. Our common roots strike a chord with people, and they wonder why we cannot sit down and prayerfully try to resolve these issues. I wonder myself.

        Once again, George (and Gail), thanks for your work; it is much appreciated as is your openness to us “wayward brethren.” (smiley face). God bless you both.

        • Thank you very much for your kind words and information.

        • Father Wilson says

          Elizanna, nothing would delight me more than to have it authoritatively settled that Francis is not Pope. However, I am in sales, not management. Management is going to have to figure that one out (classically, by a Synod or even an Ecumenical Council. Frankly- no pun intended — the catastrophic mess of the past decade probably deserves a full Council for mopping it all up).

          In the meantime, realistically, as far as I know, Francis is the Pope. Which honestly does not surprise me: God gave us the Pope we deserve! If we are wise we will direct our attention to our own conversion, and helping each other.

          Ecumenically speaking, I rejoice in the wealth of the tradition of the Eastern Church, in the treasure of holiness. On my desk is a copy of the Habgood Service Book, and mindful of my Orthodox friends I pray from it daily, and it encourages and edifies me. I am a parish priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, offering Mass each day at least once in the Novus Ordo, once on Sunday in the traditional Mass. whichever Mass liturgy I use, I seek to help people to follow Jesus, Who is the whole point of the whole damn thing!!!!

          I revere the holy Orthodox Church, her rites and ceremonies and tradition and spirituality. I am delighted that these continue. I accept the teaching and discipline of my Church in this regard — that we are one Church with the Orthodox, that their sacramental ministry is fruitful, that we would be in full communion if they would agree. I understand and respect the Orthodox point of view, that the fruitfulness of sacraments celebrated outside of the Orthodox context is really not an issue to be considered. My own position is, quite simply, respectful reverence, being mindful that Christ is Lord of the Church and leaving it to Him to work the healing.

          Meanwhile, the canonical decisions about the faculties of the SSPX, while I am sure were made with the knowledge of the Pope, belong to the dicasteries of the Curia which have competence in that area. They would not evaporate if Francis were declared an antipope: otherwise, ten years or more of the work of the Church would evaporate!

          • Father, can you explain to the blog (or give us a link or maybe send us something that we can put on the blog) how the pope who stands in the place of Jesus Christ and possesses His authority can be retired or moved aside? It’s an important question to the Orthodox from the standpoint that it is the necessity of having a pope that is the primary barrier (as we perceive it) to unifying with the Catholic Church.

            We presently suffer from having a bishop who perceives himself as being the head of the Orthodox Church. We know it isn’t true. Even he knows it isn’t true because it’s not embraced by the rest of the Church. Frankly, the thought of having anyone other than Christ as the head of the Church is terrifying to us given the havoc this has caused. Yet I know Catholics are 100% committed to having a pope; it’s so important, I suspect there will never be unity.

            Can this be what Christ envisioned?

            Since we’re talking about it, I’m just going to say what a lot of people might be thinking: Pope Benedict and Pope Francis could not be further apart in terms of their approaches to leading the Catholic Church. Very different people with very different objectives. If one is correct, it almost makes the other a heretic (guilty of wrong teaching).

            How could they both be vicars of Christ, especially at the same time?

            • Fr. Wilson: I understand and respect the position you are in as a priest, that you operate in an environment that must respect the authority of overlords. The problem is that quite a few bishops and cardinals believe that “Francis” is not -shall we say kosher – but there aren’t enough of them who have the guts to speak out.The majority of the College of Cardinals was appointed by Bergoglio. Do you honestly think they are going to say ANYTHING against him and risk their red hats? Of course not! I believe you refer to St. John Eudes when you state that we get the popes we deserve (in his case it was priests), and that is most likely true regarding this mess. Not much has been right in the church since Vatican 2 went off the rails, so it was only a matter of time before this happened. Gail asks you how there can be two vicars of Christ (popes). The answer is that there cannot, but that is precisely what Benedict attempted to do in his bogus resignation wherein he resigned just the ministerium and not the munus (the office itself). Read Archbishop Ganswein’s speech of May 20, 2016 following the “resignation.” It explains exactly what Benedict tried to accomplish, The late priest Fr Nicholas Gruner ( a canon lawyer no less) and several other theologians questioned the whole business at the time, but it was swept under the rug. Here’s a link.

              I agree, Father, that we need to attend to our own conversion and sanctification, but in order to do that we cannot follow a “vicar” who would have us defy the laws of God. This “vicar” spews unChristian nonsense at every turn, e.g., communion for divorced and “remarried,” absolute inadmissability of the death penalty, that, and I quote, “Mother Earth is the one who gave is life and sustains us.” Shall I go on? The following link is to Bp. Rene Gracida’s blog, one of the few who has the fortitude to speak out .


              In the time of the Arian heresy, St Athanasius stood out as almost the sole voice among bishops and priests in defense of the faith. He was excommunicated and outcast and it was only the laity that came to his defense. Well, it looks like it’s going to have to be the laity again. Christians, Catholic and Orthodox, must learn their faith and stand up to defend it, because it doesn’t seem as though we can count on the clergy, especially in the hierarchy to do that for us.

              • I think a lot of Catholics struggle with these things. It’s because of all the changes. In some ways, being Orthodox is easier because we don’t have hard and fast rules. We fall, we get back up. We fall, we get back up. But where we do have rules, it would be very hard for expectations to be changed. Being (fill-in-the-blank), is a roadmap for living your life. Especially in a traditional Church. The signposts shouldn’t be moved.

                Our frustrations have more to do with the very thing we simply could not tolerate if it were different: Not having one point of authority! We can’t address what needs to be addressed unless our bishops come to an agreement about something. They don’t always. Right now we’re facing another schism which is a tragedy, especially here in America where we’re already fractured. We have a plethora of Orthodox Churches in this country when we should only have one. We’re struggling for unity but with this schism, that’s probably not going to happen.

                Some problems only God can fix.

            • Father Wilson says

              Hello, Gail. I am sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you but things have been busy here.

              There is only one Pope at a time. He is the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth. There have been “antipopes” at times — through confused circumstances, more than one person claimed to be Pope, I think the record is three at one time — but with time it gets sorted out. There is only one Pope at a time.

              Now, Benedict XVI, a great Pope whom I revere, confused this remarkably. His abdication was a shock. Personally, I believe that it was due to several understandable things. He was older and getting more infirm. He was aware of very, very serious challenges that needed to be faced (the financial mess in the Vatican, the fact that his predecessor John Paul II had neglected the administration of the Church in favor of going on Saint Paul-like evangelical journeys — and this was something John Paul candidly admitted as a failure on his own part in his last memoir— and thus there were Bishops who were totally unsuited to their ministry, for example Howard Hubbard the Bishop of Albany for almost forty years, the guy who is facing seven different accusation of sexual abuse from seven men AND has just decided at eighty two years of age that he wants to be deposed from the Priesthood so he can marry a wonderful woman — dear Lord this post is going to be as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti), but MOST SIGNIFICANTLY as Cardinal Ratzinger, he stood at the bedside of John Paul II as he deteriorated with Parkinson’s. For years the Pope could not govern the Church. Ratzinger saw this, and I believe concluded that it would be far better to abdicate before one got to the point where he could not govern.

              But it seems Benedict made a serious error. He thought that he could renounce the ministerium, the ministry of Peter but retain the munus —the office, in some sense. He retained the white cassock of the Pope, he retained the papal name Benedict, he continued to give apostolic blessings. Had he simply retired, assumed a black cassock as Father Benedict, a lot of confusion would have been avoided, but he seems to have thought that he could hold on to the office without holding onto the ministry of Peter so that there would be a “contemplative” and an “active” papacy, with Francis as the active.

              Wrapping our minds around the “retired Pope” concept was odd enough (I saw a Papal Retirement meme on line: Benedict’s head superimposed on the body of a Walmart greeter in the blue smock. Ver, very funny).

              But there is only one Pope at a time. With his abdication, Benedict ceased to be Pope. In ANY sense.

              Now, as you note, Francis is a very different draught of beer than Benedict. And here, I think there are two main points I wish to make, although I very much fear that I will think of more…

              The Pope is not the Tsar. He is not an autocrat. It is true that canon law ascribes to him full, supreme and universal jurisdiction over the Church. But it is also true that he stands under the Revelation, just as truly as I do. Revelation is God’s revealing of Himself to us. It comes in two streams — Scripture and Tradition. Everything he teaches must be an exposition, an explanation of what has been received.

              In that sense I must clarify my point that there is only one Pope at a time: in a real sense there are two hundred sixty-six Popes. They have governed, they have taught, they have clarified the Magisterium. Their work does not disappear when they die (which is why Peter’s epistles are still in the New Testament!). John Paul II, for example, as an eminent philosopher, worked assiduously to present the moral teachings of the Church, as well as her dogma, in a form that would speak to our time. His encyclical Veritatis Splendor, the Splendor of Truth, is a magnificent exposition of a Catholic moral teaching.

              In much the same way, by way of example, you can go back to Leo XIII, at the end of the 1800s. With Rerum Novarum, he initiated a dialogue with the world that started the Catholic Social Teaching tradition, which was taken up by Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and JohnPaul II. These are tremendously significant contributions of the Catholic Church to our modern world, as is the body of ethical reflection which comprises our Moral Theology. Weekly, I receive email updates from a Catholic lay office affiliated with the UnitedNations as a non governmental agency (NGO). It is fascinating to see the difference this group, under its director Austin Ruse, makes in international politics, as it networks with conservative governments (European, Arabic, South American) to prevent abortion and euthanasia, and immoral genetic procedures, from being internationally promoted by the United Nations. The Catholic Church is deeply engaged in witnessing the Gospel values to the world, and brings a very lively theological culture of reflection to the task.

              We have, frankly, a problem now. Francis does not, in my judgment, govern this way. John Paul II set up two Institutes of scholars to perpetuate the kind of ethical reflection he promoted; Francis has trashed both of them, dismissing whole faculties and articulating new goals for the Institutes. Francis is not a scholar, in the mold of his twentieth century predecessors.

              In my own personal judgment, Francis seems to be a wounded person who carries a great deal of baggage, resentment over the way his efforts were received as a young priest within his Jesuit community, strong resentment against traditional Catholics. Every Pope has assumed office with his own limitations. It may be that God has allowed us this Pope to teach those of us who tended to exalt the papacy that we need to get over Ultramontanism!

              To return to Pope John Paul II, years ago he authored a text, I do not recall whether it was an encyclical or an exhortation or what, but one thing he mooted was that, in the future reunited Church, the Primacy of Peter might be exercised differently, as it had been in earlier ages.

              Now, this is common sense. In 1950, Pope Pius XII could pick up the telephone, phone the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and talk with him in real time. In 1530, the parish priest of Surrey-on-the-Thames would hear that the Pope had died, would initiate the nine days of Requiem Masses, then the three days of Masses of the Holy Ghost for the conclave… all the time knowing perfectly well that by the time he first got the news the old Pope was dead and buried, the conclave had met and the new Pope was elected! Obviously, primacy was exercised differently in 1950 from 1530.

              Pope John Paul II demonstrates the dynamism inherent in Catholic theology. A new age may well have a new way of exercising Petrine primacy, as needed. That new age called for a clearer, grounded Catholic Social Teaching. And it called for a dynamic Catholic Moral Teaching with which it could dialogue, and that dialogue has been very significant I’m medical ethics— they may loathe us but they cannot ignore us.

              And the network of a Catholic health care institutions is the largest non governmental provider service in the world; Catholic social services are all over the place, not just providing care directly but advocating with government about child and youth care, women’s issues and family. This very morning I offered Mass on the feast of Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominicans, and thought of Francis and his Franciscans, Dominic and his Dominicans, Teresa and her Carmelites, Ignatius and his Jesuits… How many religious orders blanket the world, some active, some contemplative, teaching, running hospitals, universities, scientific institutes! I had Marist Brothers in high school, Dominican Sisters in grammar school, I have worked with Sisters of Charity in hospitals. There are Religious communities explicitly set up for mentally handicapped persons; there are formal religious institutes for married and lay Catholics who want to live under the discipline of a Rule and with a supportive community, even though they might not live together. When considering Catholicism, one must acknowledge….

              …An astounding amount of spiritual energy, engaging the world.

              Meanwhile, in my following of the Lord Jesus, Pope Francis is often distressing, but he is not a game changer. No well instructed Catholic can possibly believe that the current Pope is the Tsar, cancelling out the teachings of the Magisterium.

              But that well-instructed Catholic might conclude that he is NUTS!!

              Anyway, for those interested in pursuing the Catholic understanding of the Petrine primacy, I would recommend “Upon This Rock,” by Stephen Ray, an evangelical pastor who converted to Catholicism. Available from It is a remarkably readable book that takes you from Scripture through the Church’s history. Well worth it.
              Fr Wilson

            • Gail, Pope Benedict is not the first Pope who’s ever retired, though he was the first in 600 years. They are elected, they can retire, there aren’t actually a lot of rules around the latter. It just hadn’t happened in so long it was a shock to Catholics when it did – and many are still in denial about it.

              And the Pope is very much like a Tsar, in light of the vow of obedience cardinals and bishops are required to take and the power the Pope wields. Bishops who have tried to speak up against Francis have been removed. Ditto for priests who’ve tried to speak out. Some have been committed to mental institutions on the pretext of mental illness (a common tactic in the Catholic Church), there was an outspoken priest in Chicago who ran when the bishop’s men arrived at his parish, I believe has been in hiding ever since.

              Also please be aware when interacting with Catholic priests, especially very smooth-tongued ones who make the Catholic Church sound so good: they use a practice called “mental reservation” which allows them to essentially lie to others and deflect the truth in order to protect the reputation of the Church, without considering it lying. It has been extensively used with respect to child sex abuse, but it can be used anytime with anyone, as needed.

              Most laity have no idea such a thing even exists. I came across the term while still Catholic and researching the origins of the child sex abuse crisis, Catholic lawyer Kieran Tapsell exposed it in his book Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse, which explains how the pontifical secret enacted early in the 20th century with the dawn of world media required Catholic bishops to hide and shuffle child sex abusers around on pain of excommunication. And although I was shocked to learn of it, I immediately recognized it as having been used on me, too, when asking hard questions of clergy.

              As for “Upon This Rock,” by Stephen Ray, I read it on my way into the Catholic Church a long time ago, and still have it. It is, of course, biased, though it has led to a lot of conversions to the Catholic Church. It contributed to mine, until many years later, with a much better understanding of history and theology, I left to become Orthodox.

              Anyway, forgive me, I was down with a bad cold the past couple of weeks and just catching up with this conversation.

              • “…they use a practice called “mental reservation”
                which allows them to essentially lie to others …
                to protect the reputation of the Church,
                without considering it lying.”

                Now where have I heard of this before?
                Oh yes:

                “Taqiyya is an Islamic juridical term whose shifting meaning
                relates to when a Muslim is allowed, under Sharia law, to lie.
                A concept whose meaning has varied significantly among
                Islamic sects, scholars, countries, and political regimes…”

                I love that “shifting meaning“.
                How utterly convenient…

                • Wow, touché, good point! I had heard of that before but forgot about it!

                  • In the US State Department and UK Foreign Office,
                    the same practice is given the name of Diplomacy.

                • Solidarity Priest says

                  I am sorry to say that those who left ROCOR to form the HOCNA cult seemed to be operating under that very principle. I almost was taken in by them. Thank God my late wife and the late Hieromonk Kallistos were able to talk sense into me.

              • Please forgive me says

                Interesting. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do this too. They call it “theocratic warfare.”

              • Hope you feel better.

          • As always Fr, very wise words spoken in pastoral fashion.

        • It pains me to hear some of this talk has been hurtful to you, Elizanna. What some don’t fully understand is the Orthodox Church is a positive threshold: You’re either Orthodox or you’re not. Being Catholic shouldn’t be the stigma some people ascribe to it. I look at other Christians as Christians who are just not Orthodox yet.

          Frankly, it’s our own journey that should be foremost in our mind and I am grateful mine includes the Orthodox Church. I have loved God all my life: as an Episcopalian, a Protestant, and as an Evangelical and I can honestly say there is difference in being Orthodox.

          This is kind of a funny story. 20+ years ago when I was in the process of becoming Orthodox I was on this Orthodox list (we really didn’t have the Internet like we do today) called the Indiana List. I got into several deep discussions about Orthodoxy with a Catholic nun named Mary. Because we argued back and forth, I used to tease her and call her, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” like that silly little poem. – Fast forward to a year or so ago. I got to thinking about her. I left my phone number for her to call me back. She remembered me and the first she said when she called was, “Gail, I became Orthodox! I am an Orthodox nun!!!”

          • Thank you, Gail, for your kind words. They are much appreciated. I understand what you are saying about the sentiments being pro-Orthodox and I agree with that to a point. However, some of the remarks made to me and my late husband when we attended a Greek Orthodox church,were decidedly anti-Catholic. Hopefully they were in the minority. We were cradle Catholics who left the church after the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, the Freemasonic /Protestant travesty that completely destroyed the nature of the Liturgy as Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary in favor of a “communal meal.” Don’t get me started on the guitar masses and liturgical dancing and communion in the hand. We. like you, loved God as Evangelicals (even Pentecostal at one point), conservative (not mainline) Presbyterians and Orthodox, but for whatever reason God called us to return to the Catholic church. We knew it would be difficult, but we found a good group of trads nearby (SSPX) and after much prayer and soul searching I believe this is where I am meant to be.I maintain my respect and affection for my Orthodox brethren and hope that one day ( maybe soon if we are truly in the end times) we will be reunited. I truly believe that the only answer to all this chaos is Divine intervention. God has this all under control. May he bless you and George in your spiritual journey.

            • Thank you, Elizanna!

            • “…some of the remarks made to me and my
              late husband…were decidedly anti-Catholic.”

              It is easy to interpret anti-[Roman] Catholic theology
              as equivalent to anti-{Roman] Catholic people,
              but this is not necessarily the case in every instance.

            • Elizanna, I encountered anti-Catholic sentiments when I left the Catholic Church to become Orthodox, including a couple fairly obnoxious ones, but it didn’t faze me. When I was a new Christian, I started out Evangelical in a strongly anti-Catholic megachurch. We heard anti-Catholic sermons, had anti-Catholic books in the bookstore, and as a trained evangelist I personally tried to convert Catholics to Evangelicalism. So I was used to those attitudes when I came across them in Orthodoxy. And the most obnoxious ones were former Protestants who carried their anti-Catholic attitudes into Orthodoxy with them.

              My journey to Catholicism began when I found out Catholic theology was a lot more true than Evangelical, especially on important matters like the Eucharist, Mary and the nature of salvation, which Evangelicals spent a lot of time trying to explain away instead taking literally in the bible, as they claim to do. And I lost friends in the process. But I follow Christ, not my friends, as much as I love them and losing them hurts.

              Same in my journey to Orthodoxy. My journey has been about finding Christ and finding His truth, to be sure I am following Him truly. Studying Early Church Fathers in curriculum development for theology classes I was teaching in the Catholic Church, I kept finding teachings I’d never heard, despite its claim to be based on tradition. Some that appeared to contradict RC teaching, most startlingly on the role of Peter, but other things too, including on the nature of the Cross and of sin. Answers to questions I had that I couldn’t find in Catholic theology. That is what led in the long run, after many years of careful study, to my becoming Orthodox.

              I am Orthodox because I love Orthodoxy and believe it to be true, the truest, most beautiful expression of the Christian faith, the original faith of the pre-schism Church. I believe Catholicism to be full of errors and distortions compared to Orthodoxy (alongside many things that are good and true), though millions of good and faithful Catholics don’t know it.

              I don’t believe merely retreating to a pre-Vatican II version of Catholicism is the answer, because it is also very distorted. The problems in Catholicism long predate Vatican II, going back as far as the invasions of Germanic tribes into Rome in the 5th century, and the very different spirit that brought into Catholicism and the papacy, never corrected and that explains a lot of what is happening in the Catholic Church today.

              But I understand why people go there. I would just say, make sure you are truly loving and following Christ, and not putting men on a pedestal in His place. It is very easy to do that in the trad world, I saw it in both the SSPX and FSSP, putting priests on pedestals, believing they cannot sin, and that is very unhealthy.

              Most recently in the case of Fr. James Jackson, FSSP, longtime revered pastor of an FSSP parish where many friends of mine have gone over the years, recently caught with massive amounts of very bad infant and child pornography (essentially sexual torture, and elements of Satanism), then caught with it again while awaiting trial, and finally pled guilty. Yet many in that parish continue to defend him, refuse to believe him guilty, because he’s a “holy priest who celebrates the TLM, thus couldn’t possibly do these things.” Who insist they would still trust him with their children. It’s a cultish mentality and I personally stay as far away from that as I can get. So, be careful.

    • I have tremendous respect for Christine Niles at Church Militant, she should be applauded, not criticized. She is fearless in exposing child sex abuse wherever she finds it, including in the SSPX (why they hate her so much, she did some hard-hitting reporting there), where not only has abuse been hidden and abusive priests moved around just like the rest of the Catholic Church, but who even have protected prominent lay pedophiles in their congregations who abuse their own children.

      I went to an SSPX chapel for a short time, it was a very strange experience, very off-balance and heavy emphasis on guilt and reliance on the priest for salvation, not on Christ. And I cannot forget the anger I faced from a new SSPX “friend” when I brought up Christine’s reporting – it seemed in her mind, SSPX priests could not possibly be guilty of child sex abuse, because doing the TLM makes them holy! And when I left the chapel, she dropped me like a hot potato. I was glad to be out of there and even gladder to be Orthodox now.

      I am also disappointed to see extreme rad trad Catholic links posted here on this Orthodox blog, especially Ann Barnhardt, an extreme weirdo who has misled many Catholics with her rants, including good friends of mine. I would take everything coming from this part of the trad world, including the SSPX, with a big grain of salt.

    • Elizanna, you said,

      Bergoglio … next he’ll go after the Byzantine rites of the Eastern Catholics.

      No, he won’t, he has the Eastern Catholics exactly where he wants them, watered-down and compliant, giving them just enough “Orthodoxy” to keep them happy. He just wants to get the Orthodox into the same position, will use devious means to get there – including encouraging Bart in thinking he’s “first without equal” in the EO world. Once there, Francis will work deviously to erode the Orthodox faith, too. That’s his way, good Jesuit that he is. And Bart and subsequent Patriarchs will discover too late they are not equal to the Pope.

  3. I reject ecumenism across the board. Live and let die. However, when it comes to political action devoid of joint prayer, I cannot object. I just don’t have any sympathy with “hereticology” except in an academic sense. From a distance, and in theory, it may be useful to know who believes what. But they all might as well be Mormons or Muslims IMHO. I would ally with either against LGBT, for example. But joint prayer is out of the question.

  4. Michael Bauman says

    George and and Gail, until I figured out what was critically wrong about your analysis, I got depressed. I will share with you what I was reminded of that is critical: There has never been the kind of “order” in the Church you seem to long for. By God’s Grace, there never will be. What we have are the Holy Sacraments, sound doctrine and saints–many times saints unknown except to The Holy Trinity.
    God’s order is completely different and to me, often seems like disorder.

    The rest is only accessed by Grace and participation in the Divine Sacraments, personal prayer and repentance. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew 4:17 “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

    Often times in my life I have been shown that the situations I do not like and that I think other people need to change, it is my own sin messing up the works. Just as He reminds us–often. Here lies a great mystery.

    Be of good cheer, the Kingdom is at hand, closer than hands and feet. Please forgive me and pray for my family and me for I am a sinner messing with order and Truth.

    In obedience to my spiritual Father, I must depart because I do not have the maturity. May the Love and
    Mercy of our Lord be with you, filling and transforming you both.

    Hope to see you up here in Wichita at a gathering some time. May His Grace and Mercy be with you and Gail and those whom you love.

  5. Father Wilson says

    The SSPX is not schismatic. Rome does not regard them as schismatic. The proof of this is the granting of sacramental faculties to SSPX priests. “Faculties” are authorization to administer sacraments or preach. Upon ordination I was granted the faculty to hear confessions in any diocese throughout the world (except where a bishop might have inhibited me), to witness marriages in my parish (to go to another place for that I need delegation from that local pastor), to preach. Confession and marriage require jurisdiction — to reconcile a penitent to the Church or witness a marriage for the Church I need jurisdiction: so I can act for the local Church. (I should mention that in our Catholic theology the minister of Matrimony is the bride and the groom. The priest is simply the Church’s witness).

    The Pope has explicitly extended to the Priests of the Society of St Pius X the faculties to hear confessions and administer absolution, and witness marriages. He has also extended to Bishop Fellay, the former superior general SSPX, the faculty to be an ecclesiastical judge in marriage cases. One cannot possibly be granted these faculties if one is in schism.

    The Holy See has an awkward problem with SSPX. our theology recognizes twenty-one ecumenical councils, from that of Jerusalem through Vatican II (1962-1965). But the last was very different. Explicitly, it set out no dogmatic definitions, resolved no dogmatic questions. Explicitly, it was said to be, not a dogmatic council but a pastoral council. There were no thundering anathemas. All of this was deliberate, and carefully explained — the purpose was to open the doors wide to the world, and express the Faith in the most accessible, positive terms.

    I have a very dear and brilliant friend who showed me two books in his collection, both in Latin, printed by the Vatican Press as a set. The decrees of the twenty one ecumenical councils. The first volume was about two hundred pages. The second was at least four times the size of the first. The first volume was the texts of the first twenty councils: the big fat book was solely the verbosity of Vatican II.

    And the awkwardness comes from the fact that the SSPX cannot accept some of the verbal efflorescence of Vatican II. So what do you do with that? Pronounce an ANATHEMA! over their refusal to accept an anathema free, non-dogmatic council? Not very pastoral, eh? and frankly, the Holy See-is not exactly arguing from a position of strength. After fifty years of being pelted by the fruits of Vatican II, Trads are not in a receptive mood, and the dimmest progressives cannot ignore the obvious declining vitality of the Church.

    As for the ecumenism question, you know my position on that : time to let Christ be Lord of the Church. A cozy ecclesiastical tête-à-tête between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Servant of the Servants of God is not the answer to our Lord’s Holy Thursday prayer. Let us Catholics devote ourselves to being the most fervent, faithful Catholics we can be; let the Orthodox apply themselves to manifesting their tradition in all its spiritual power and beauty. Let’s be the best Christians we can be, you in your way, we in ours. Let’s create opportunities to know and understand and appreciate each other better. But let us leave the rest in the hands of the Lord of the Church, Who will solve it all in His time.

    • . . . Who will solve it all in His time.” And in His name.

    • Thank you Fr, very much for this explanation (and your readership).

      • William Tighe says

        On sedevacantism in general (and a list of some of its “sects” at the end):

        On the Society of St. Pius V:

        On the Congregation of Mary Immaculate, Sovereign Queen:

        I do not include the Society of St. Pius X here because, for reasons cogently enunciated by Fr. Wilson, it is not, in Rome’s view, schismatic, however “disobedient” it may be.

        I will not enter into any extended discussion of Sedevacantism here – a statement perhaps belied by what follows – save to say that I think that it is an incoherent position for any orthodox Catholic to take (and note that I do not include the Society of St. Pius X in this category; it does not take a sedevacantist position and I agree with Fr. Wilson that it is not a “schismatic” group). What I will say, is that while I feel deeply the distress of Catholics such as “Elizanna” and “Evie” on the comment thread I have to ask, who has the authority to conclude that a bad pope, whether morally bad, or doctrinally bad (even heretical) is not a valid pope? Catholic theologians who have considered this question from the Middle Ages onward have all concluded that this is not a matter that individuals can decide for themselves – far better, relatively speaking, in my view is that such people say, “right, this shows that Catholicism is wrong, and I’m becoming Orthodox” (or Oriental Orthodox or Evangelical or whatever). Those who have discussed the question have usually concluded that only an Ecumenical Council or perhaps the College of Cardinals can condemn (as heretical) and depose a pope, but such views have usually ended in incoherence, such as, if it’s the College of Cardinals, would it have to be a unanimous decision of all of them, a majority decision or what (not to mention who would summon such a meeting, even assuming that they could somehow come together on their own [and would it require all, or just a majority, of the cardinals to show up for it])? Similar questions would arise in the case of an ecumenical council. The only pope to be condemned by an ecumenical council was Pope Honorius I (d. 638) and that condemnation occurred decades after his death, in 680-681, and that condemnation was subsequently ratified by the then pope, St. Leo II – an Orthodox saint I should add – who declared, in confirming it, “Honorius [who] did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.” (This raises the whole question of primacy in the Church, on which Catholics and Orthodox today differ profoundly, and which I will not enter into here.) The late Cardinal O’Connor of New York was once asked in an interview, after he had stated that the ordination of women was an impossibility, what would he do if a future pope authorized the ordination of women. His reply was that it would never happen, because any future pope who might attempt to authorize the ordination of women would fall into heresy by doing so, and would ipso facto cease to be pope. The question then becomes, if the pope “forfeits” his office by an open embrace of heresy, who, what body or group, could accept the forfeiture? I can think of none, and therefore find myself stuck with the conclusion that nothing can be done about an heretical pope, save offering prayers for a swift realization of Acts 1:20 (Authorized Version) and posthumous anathematization, whether by a later pope or an ecumenical council (or both). Much as I “feel the pain” (no sarcasm intended) of distressed Catholics such as “Elizana” and “Evie,” I do not think that the line that they seem to embrace, “This pope is awful, maybe even a heretic, or at least a supporter of heterodox teachers, and therefore he can’t truly be pope” is coherent or ecclesiologically defensible in a Catholic. And there is always a forlorn hope of a repetition of the case of Pope John XXII (born 1249, pope 1316-1334) who preached that the souls of the departed sleep between the moment of an individual’s death and the resurrection to judgment on the Last Day, a doctrine widely accepted as heretical in the Church (or at least the “Western Church”), and actually declared to be heretical by John XXII’s successor Benedict XII in his dogmatic definition Benedictus Deus in 1336, one of those pre-1870 papal dogmatic definitions usually regarded as ex cathedra, and hence infallible: on his deathbed John XXII’s confessor refused to administer the last sacraments to him until he repented of his heretical teaching, which the pope did shorty before he died.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Thank you for posting this.

          I thank you (and Fr Wilson) for correcting me regarding the SSPX. My question (concern actually) is this: if Pope Francis succeeds in totally suppressing the Latin Mass, what will the SSPX do?

          • William Tighe says

            Carry on as they are, I suppose. The strange thing is to try to explain why he has displayed such “indulgent favor” to the SSPX, while otherwise constricting celebrations the Tridentine Mass – although one should note that he hasn’t (yet?) restricted its celebrations by such organizations within the Church as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP):



            or the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest::



            Perhaps he wishes to treat “Traditionalist Latin Catholics” analogously to the matter in which American Indians or Australian Aborigines were treated in the “bad old days:” confine them to remote reservations, keep “outsiders” from mingling with or visiting them, and leave them there more or less on their own to “do their own thing” until they die out. But remember, I did write “analogously;” and if we apply the “Gamaliel Principle” of Acts 5: 38-39 it may be that that such groups will survive the coming devastation, and eventually flourish.

          • It should be noted — sedevacantism popped onto the scene with the suppression of the traditional Mass by Paul VI. Sedes (as we affectionately call them) will always list a couple of teachings of Vatican II (such as religious Liberty and freedom of conscience) as objections, but it was the wholesale, abrupt and poorly thought out uprooting of the worship tradition which was already canonized and venerable in the reign of Gregory the Great (who died in 602 A.D.) which really stuck in their craw. And rightly so. Since Vatican II was the cataclysmic event that made this possible, Sedes point to the election of John XXIII as the moment when the train went off the rails.

            The current crisis has caused a lot of soul searching. In 1967 there was a sub-schism among conservatives. Some said, Paul is the Pope, like it or not he has the authority to change the liturgy. Others said Hell, No! (in America the former group coalesced around The Wanderer newspaper, the latter around The Remnant).

            Fifty something years later, a more sober, mature (in my opinion ) point of view has emerged: the Liturgy is part of the Tradition,. No Pope-has the authority to do a Classic Coke/New Coke deal, and CERTAINLY NOT the authority to ban the Classic Coke!

            And I have watched an astonishing work of the Holy Spirit. When I was in high school, the traditional Mass was forbidden. All over the Church, sacristies had been scrubbed of old Mass books, old vestments…. Today,there is no need to hunt in old storage rooms: everything is back in print, altar missals, hand missals, vestments, Ritual books, rubrical explanation books.

            And I must say, it is very clear that many bishops in the Church are not comfortable with the current disrespect the Pope is showing to traditionalists. The Trad communities have not been a problem in various dioceses and they are growing AND strongly appealing to young people.

            People are not going to let 1970 happen again. If the Mass goes underground, so be it. It will not be for long.

            • The young priest at my parents’ venerable Catholic parish is introducing traditional Latin hymns into the Novus Ordo Mass on Sundays, and also serving a “Tridentine” Latin Mass on Saturday mornings, with solid attendance. He’s inspired my father (at 74 years old!) to learn ecclesiastical Latin and lead a group at the parish who are studying Latin together, so they can actively participate and appreciate the traditional hymnody!

  6. I’m a Catholic who came back to the Church in 2017 after 40 years away. I find the sedevacantist position to be the most convincing one. I have a soft spot for the Greek Orthodox. I moved to a small Greek island where there are also a lot of Catholics. My husband even went to Mount Athos last year! He loved it . . . Thank heavens he came back.

    The fighting among Catholics had to happen. Vatican II was a total disaster because it enshrined Modernism, which Pius X called the synthesis of all heresies. It transformed the liturgy into a man-centric “happening”, a protestant happy meal. Its central tenet is the Church has to modernize all the time to fit modern tastes, hence, the never-ending revolution and changes to adopt to the latest ideological fad: altar girls, guitar masses, priests on hoverboards. The problem is Vatican II, not the charisma (or lack of it) of the Pope. Francis is simply doing what Vatican II promulgates. John Paul II, favorite of trads, was as bad – he kisssed the Koran, wrote a prayer on his visit to Jordan (“may St. John the Baptist protect Islam …) which is on the Vatican website, promoted false religions, etc. The strangest thing about the “Conciliar Church” which is what sedevacantists call the cabal who occupies the offices of the Church, is that they say they want the Eastern and Western Churches to unite, BUT they do everything that will prevent that unity.

    I go to the Latin mass, preferably the pre-1960, use a pre-1960 Missal, read Catholic books before 1960 and yes, I read Orthodox spiritual books and watch Orthodox priests and monks on YouTube. At this point in Catholic history, the only people teaching Catholic dogma are Orthodox priests and religious!

    I see many dangerous tendencies in the Orthodox Church – the pressure to bless homosexual marriages, altar girls, etc. These need to be resisted by the laity. Clergy today are weak. They bow to their secular masters. Don’t make the same mistakes that Catholics made in the 1960s. Catholics simply let the Modernists get away with the nonsense, instead of resisting the changes.

  7. per the ‘curve of cope’, cardinal sarah becomes pope, well they did have pope joan, didn’t they?

    • Excellent joke.

      However, lest anyone mistake it for reality, “Robert
      Sarah is a Guinean prelate of the Catholic Church”

      ‘ Sarah has been a vocal advocate for the defense of traditional Catholic teaching on questions of sexual morality and the right to life, and in denouncing Islamic radicalism. He has called gender ideology and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) the “two radicalizations” that threaten the family: the former through divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion; the latter with child marriage, polygamy, and the subjugation of women. ‘

  8. Three weeks ago, in meeting with representatives from the Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholics changed their position on the Papacy, essentially agreeing with the Orthodox; that is, that the Orthodox understanding of first millennium ecclesiology is the correct one.

    George, what meeting was that? I can’t find mention of it. Thanks.

    • It’s interesting how it’s worded (I believe this is George’s source):

      It says, “The document concludes by “drawing lessons from the history that has been surveyed,” including that “major issues complicate an authentic understanding of synodality and primacy in the Church.”

      “The Church is not properly understood as a pyramid, with a primate governing from the top, but neither is it properly understood as a federation of self-sufficient Churches,” the statement says.

      “Our historical study of synodality and primacy in the second millennium has shown the inadequacy of both of these views,” it continues. “Similarly, it is clear that for Roman Catholics synodality is not merely consultative, and for Orthodox primacy is not merely honorific.”

      The theological dialogue commission released the joint statement following its 15th plenary session in Alexandria, Egypt, June 1–7.

      Ten Orthodox Churches were represented at the meeting, which was attended by 18 Catholic commission members.”


      I don’t know who the Orthodox Churches were who participated in this discussion, but I’m guessing they are all in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Someone needs to tell the pope they are misrepresenting something on purpose, as their bishop is the bishop who thinks he runs the Orthodox Church when he doesn’t! It is NOT true that the Orthodox feel Orthodox primacy is more than honorific. It is only honorific. First among equals does not mean first without equal, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate would have you believe.

      Yet another reason to be frustrated with Pope Francis. His leanings toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They are running our churches into the ground. There both seriously delusional.

      • Thanks for the links, George and Gail. I’ll put my teacher hat on for a few moments, as this is a theological discussion I’ve followed for years, starting way back when I was still Catholic and developing theology curriculum. I hadn’t noticed they’d issued another document, so am thankful to find it mentioned here. There have been several, though, and it’s pretty interesting.

        The last, the Chieti document of 2016, was considered a breakthrough as it conducted a study of how papal authority actually worked prior to schism, and found it was not at all like how it developed after schism. Even admitted the pope at the time had no canonical authority to try to impose the filioque on the East, the thing that provoked the Great Schism. It was well-received in the Orthodox news at the time, I recall.

        But it’s important to know, George, the document is not a change in Catholic teaching, because the commission is not authoritative. Vatican committees can be a bit Byzantine (if you’ll pardon the pun) and sound authoritative, but today’s pronouncements may well be in tomorrow’s dustbin. The point of the commission is to work out differences in hopes of someday future unity, but it’s been going on a long time and the Orthodox bishops have several times pushed back hard against findings not in accord with the Orthodox perspective. Which they do have authority to do with respect to this commission.

        Gail, you noted,

        It is NOT true that the Orthodox feel Orthodox primacy is more than honorific. It is only honorific. First among equals does not mean first without equal, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate would have you believe.

        That may be what they are trying to get at, but maybe not. The document itself does not define what it means by “primacy is more than honorific,” rather is calling for further study of the issue (the same thing that led to the Chieti document, which had a great outcome).

        For example, Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff in his book The Primacy of Peter explained that Peter, far from being anchored to Rome as its first bishop and reigning over everyone else (as Catholics wrongly perceive), instead spent most of his time travelling around so as to meet with and strengthen his brothers, as Jesus told him to. He was not acting as a “boss,” commanding them, but rather a supporter, encourager, helper, answerer of questions as “first among equals.” A good older brother.

        In time bishops from around the Catholic-Orthodox world would write to the bishop of Rome for advice on matters they and the bishops in their own region couldn’t resolve. The bishop of Rome would respond with his advice, but again it was not as a “boss” dictating what they must do, but as an advisor helping them out.

        This was the meaning of “first among equals.” More than a “position of honor” like a mere figurehead, but not a position of top-down authority like a “boss,” the bishop of Rome had a practical role, acting in an advisory capacity to help his brother bishops. This was the finding of the Chieti document, and I assume, or at least hope, what this new document is talking about as a possible basis of future unity.

        The main obstacle for the Catholic Church of course is the fact supreme universal jurisdiction and papal infallibility have been proclaimed doctrines and are interpreted as top-down authority, and that’s a little hard to go back on. But I do see in this document a hint of how it might be done (and save the Catholics a little face), by contextualizing doctrinal decisions as conditioned by limited historical circumstances and thus not the full teaching or meaning, in which case they could be modified in such a way as to minimize or re-interpret things to bring them into accord with pre-schism tradition. This has already happened in some other theological areas as a result of dialogue with the East in the 20th century. Drives trads nuts, but not everything about Vatican II was bad, there were some good Catholic developments in the 20th century thanks to this dialogue.

        As the document hints, such a reinterpretation might mean the pope is infallible only when in accord with the bishops, which would include the bishops of the East. Wouldn’t that be something! Or have supreme universal jurisdiction in an absolute sense only in his own “jurisdiction” (the Catholic Church), and elsewhere only in an advisory capacity, in accord with how Peter and the bishop of Rome worked in the pre-schism Church.

        Anyway, like you guys I don’t trust Francis, nor do I trust Bart, so we’ll see what really happens. Francis certainly has a way of twisting things (very Jesuit, btw). But I do know there are good Orthodox bishops who will push back against anything this committee issues that is not in actual accord with Orthodoxy, and the committee itself has no actual authority, itself is an advisory body only. Hope that helps!

        • Wow! This was helpful. Thank you.

        • “…such a reinterpretation might mean the pope is
          infallible only when in accord with the bishops”.

          Wouldn’t this mean that he is infallible only if
          he is in accord with an Ecumenical Council?

          And wouldn’t the same be true of other bishops?

          • Well, yes. Kind of a backdoor way of coming back to tradition, but it would be the effect. And more in accord with Orthodox teaching on infallibility generally, that it is held by the whole Church, all the members, not a single person above everybody else.

            Whether it happens or not is a different matter, but I do see hints of it in this document.

            • The backdoor leads into the house
              just as well as the front door does.

              By what route RCC errors are corrected,
              I don’t care – just that they are corrected.

              • No, they need to be outright repudiated in order to be readmitted to the Church. The entire mindset of such ecumenical dialogue is not Orthodox at all. There can be no corporate reconciliation with those with a millennium long history of heresy. Finessing it won’t do. It is a recipe for the self destruction of whatever part of Orthodoxy agrees and thus leaves the true Church.

                Rome is beyond arrogant and worships power. This is institutional. Such a Uniatist solution would only subvert Orthodoxy. Rome cannot be reformed. It can only be converted, one person at a time.

                The rest is a dangerous fool’s errand.

                • Agreed.

                • In the last two millenniums all the popes were heretics, same as their church. Slight change is today that this last pope got a mirror image in Phanar, most likely even worse heretic tnan RC popes :). But, there were several heretics as Patriarchs in Phanar in the past, and they are forgotten and the Church is strong as ever was and it will always be.

                • I think you are reading a great deal more
                  into what I said than it properly contains.

                  Correction of errors involves repudiation of said errors,
                  for if they are not repudiated they cannot be corrected;
                  whether by logic and experience or by divine revelation.

        • Theo, I feel like I earned a degree in ecclesiology in reading this. Thank you!

        • Joseph Lipper says

          The Roman Catholics would have to renounce the papal dogmas, and that by itself would be a renunciation of the papal infallibility associated with those dogmas.

          • That would be the shortest route from point A to point B. And Fr. Josiah Trenham says San Francisco Abp. Salvatore Cordileone has said in his hearing that if only the Catholic Church would admit its councils aren’t really ecumenical, that would solve a lot of problems. Something I would agree with. How can they be ecumenical when half the world’s bishops are missing and not in agreement?

            But there’s also a diplomatic aspect, how to bring about needed change without creating even more scandal, confusion and possible schism or loss of faith for the billion Catholics around the globe – and throwing off the trads even more. They would think the Church had totally apostatized! Taylor Marshall, whom I met years ago, would have a cow!

            Since the Catholic Church believes in the development of doctrine, this does give it the opportunity to “develop” (i.e. correct) these doctrines in a way that does actually bring them back to tradition, but in a gradual and more face-saving way.

            That is how I see this committee working, which has been around since 1982, founded under Pope Paul II. The committee has done good work, including admitting failure and going back to the drawing board when necessary, initiating more careful, objective and unbiased historical study.

            My fear is Francis, newer on the scene and with a different agenda, might mess it up by trying to force a false union prematurely. He could, as he has done elsewhere to the chagrin of good Catholics, change the committee membership to his own men who support his agenda. That would be a tragedy.

            At any rate, authentic reunion will be a difficult thing to accomplish. Not only many theological issues, but cultural issues, habits of thought, assumptions. Having Eastern Orthodoxy present in the West is helping as Americans discover it and convert, but I think a century or so might be needed for it grow and be really understood – and then the massive task of identifying and weeding out what is not good in Western development. A problem already in the Orthodox Western Rite, but that’s a different subject.

            • …weeding out what is not good in Western development. A problem already in the Orthodox Western Rite, but that’s a different subject.

              As a former RC I’m pretty intrigued by the Western Rite. But, from what I’ve seen it realllly needs to be standardized across the board between ROCOR & Antiochian WR. The WR parishes under Antioch seem to be the ones that cling to post-schism practices like stations of the cross, rosary, sacred heart, corpus christi processions etc,.

              It doesn’t seem like this is at every WR parish but it does seem to be a problem in a few places.

              On top of that they essentially use a liturgy from the book of common prayer that has been “Orthodoxified.”

              If ROCOR & Antioch can get together and hammer out these issues with the WR then I would probably attend if there was one nearby, but, as of now I’ll pass

              • Petros, you said:

                The WR parishes under Antioch seem to be the ones that cling to post-schism practices like stations of the cross, rosary, sacred heart, corpus christi processions etc,.

                To be clear, I don’t actually have a problem with Catholic devotions approved by bishops for use in the WR. I have a problem with the theological confusion I encountered there, especially on the part of pastors who were brought in from Protestant or Catholic backgrounds with very little formation, thus still operating from essentially Protestant or Catholic mental frameworks. As a careful student and teacher of theology, it drove me nuts. I finally went back East where we know who we are and what we believe (and don’t believe). I have a good solid Orthodox pastor now and am much happier.

                • I can’t think of any RC devotions, besides maybe stations of the cross, that are compatible with Orthodox theology or praxis. I’m not sure that there are any that are approved by the bishops except maybe the Orthodox rosary.

                  The scapular with the Sabbatine privileges, sacred heart/immaculate heart worship, eucharistic adoration..all of these appeared centuries after the schism and developed in a framework of post-schism Roman Catholic theology, which is not compatible with Orthodoxy.

                  Again, if the WR was more regulated and there was one nearby, I would probably go, or if there was a ROCOR one nearby I would go. It seems the above problems are mostly related to the Antiochian WR. But, as it stands now, I’m not very interested.

      • One thing these documents don’t really touch on is what exactly a unified Church would look like.

        For one, how would it even be possible to have Rome become “First among equals” again after it has spent nearly 1,000 years in schism and heresy? You don’t just become Orthodox overnight.

        Two, even if we somehow reach theological union there are other practical things like certain private RC devotions that the Orthodox view as completely antithetical to Orthodoxy, take the sacred heart devotions for example.

        Third, for those of us who are former RC’s or who are familiar with Roman Catholicism, it is almost impossible to square your average Novus Ordo Mass with the Divine Liturgy. The norm in most RC parishes is a barrage of eucharistic ministers of holy communion walking all over the altar and handing out communion, not to mention guitars or electric pianos being almost ubiquitous and songs from the Gather hymnal that was quit literally written by Protestants.

        There is just no way that RC’ism and Orthodoxy can unite, not only theological reasons but practical reasons around devotions & liturgy. IMHO the best and only option for the Orthodox is to install an Orthodox Patriarch of the West and go from there. If they think we need Rome so badly (I’m not convinced we do) then stop trying to fit a round peg through a square hole and just install an Orthodox bishop in Rome and be done with it. There are between 1-2 million Orthodox in Italy (mostly migrants but an increasing number of Italians). Unify them and go from there.

  9. I suggest we forget the whole project of coming to terms with the RCC as an institution and concentrate solely on converting RC’s to Orthodoxy. I’m sure the Church Fathers are whirling in their graves at the thought of horsetrading conferences with long condemned heretics.

  10. Tradcats & Eastern Catholics suffer from the same cognitive dissonance.

    Tradcats seem to want to capture the 1950’s “glory days” of Roman Catholicism and try to operate in a structure that doesn’t even want them.

    Eastern Catholics try to be “Orthodox in communion with Rome” which is not even possible given the innovations that Rome has adopted over the centuries. The EC’s venerate saints that Rome considers heretics. You have a “spectrum” of EC’s ranging from Maronites who are essentially Roman Catholic to Melkites who are essentially Orthodox.

    Tradcats, though they may be well meaning and trying to rescue or hold onto some semblance of pre-Vatican 2 Roman Catholicism, are not doing themselves any favors by staying on that sinking ship.

    Many of them have totally bought into Fatima and other apparitions and believe there is eventually going to be a “based” pope that will save them, mass excommunicate the hierarchy and bring back Tridentine Catholicism in all of it’s glory….all while consecrating Russia for the (40th time?) to the “immaculate heart” so that Russia has a mass conversion to papism…good luck with that.

    Roman Catholics in general, and tradcats in particular, have to jump through so many mental hoops that it makes a lot of them out of touch with reality.

    I was personally never into trad Catholicism, I went novus ordo -> Eastern Catholicism -> Orthodoxy, but, I knew a lot of tradcats and they almost all had what I would refer to as extreme scruples and very rigorist.

  11. George Michalopulos says

    This is in regard to a recent Tradcat vs Sedevantist debate: